Home covid UW’s PEOPLE program goes virtual

UW’s PEOPLE program goes virtual


UW-Madison’s PEOPLE Program will offer virtual programming to high school students this summer from June through August because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has put forth the motto “Prepare to Achieve Virtually Anything!”

“We’re still doing all of our core classes and prep work. It’s shorter because we don’t want students sitting at a screen all day,” UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program Director Gail Ford said.

The program, which usually brings middle- and high-school students to campus to experience college life, will use communication and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Canvas for online learning. Ford said the program began transitioning their afterschool programming to Microsoft Teams when schools closed because of the pandemic in March.

“We’ve remained closely connected to our students and families during this pandemic. Our campus and community partners have been flexible and patient as we drafted a virtual summer plan and we feel this experience will only strengthen our students’ skills set no matter what learning looks like in the fall,” she said.

Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE), housed within UW-Madison’s Division of Diversity Equity and Educational Achievement (DDEEA), is one of the university’s successful pre-college programs in increasing campus diversity. Students are admitted into the program in eighth grade and continue pre-college programming up until after twelfth grade. Participants who enroll at the university receive a four-year tuition scholarship and support from the program’s College Scholars program.

“It is critical that we continue delivering services to our students, as we see ourselves as significant partners in their journey to and through higher education,” Ford said.

This summer’s programming will include math, science, ACT Prep and English, as well as a social-emotional learning course called Thrive related to preparing for college life for various grade levels. The program is still hiring staff for the summer to assist with summer programming.

“I think what we’ll miss most is the community that we’ll get to build in the residential setting,” Ford said. 

While students will not have the opportunity to live in the dorms, walk to their classes, go on trips in the city, or experience a taste of campus life this summer, students will have access to College Life Mentors. Some of them worked as Residential Mentors in previous years. College Life Mentors will also host activities such as virtual tours of UW-Madison’s campus. 

“We are still planning some things virtually, like the talent show. We’ll be planning some things on Zoom like a live cooking show,” Ford said.

Internships for rising high school juniors in the program will also look a bit different. Rather than formal internship programs like in the past, students will be grouped into clusters based on their career goals to explore their interests.

More than 1000 students have been offered admission to UW-Madison through PEOPLE, and the largest percentage of admitted students per cohort is occurring now. This year 137 students were admitted to UW-Madison for Fall 2020 combining PEOPLE and Information Technology Academy (ITA).

“Our College Scholars Program for our incoming scholars will help them prepare through virtual SOAR and for the fall collegiate experience,” Ford said.